Drive-Thru Prayer

DRIVE-THRU PRAYER.

For many Christians, prayer is a sporadic and erratic event. Do you have a daily prayer time to which you commit?  I’d like to hear about it.

prayerFrom the tradition in which I grew up, the “liturgy of the hours” wasn’t practiced. Well, it may have been by some, but they certainly didn’t call it that.  In fact, there was often a disdained attitude toward anything that feels or sounds Catholic or “corporatized” about Christianity.  I don’t think anyone hated the traditions of Christendom, but there certainly was an attitude present – whether taught overtly, or environmentally absorbed – that had little value for human traditions of “the church” (the Roman Catholic church).  However, there is great value in understanding the meandering road of our Christian history; whether good or bad in its practices.

Too often, Christians I know participate in something I’d call drive-thru prayer.  After all, we hit the drive-thru for an expressed purpose, and are quick about it, and when it’s over we have little use for it again until next time we visit out of convenience or because we’re in a hurry.  Too often prayer is treated the same way.

drive-thru

In my heritage, we prayed, and were encouraged to pray.  In fact, we often quoted Paul of Tarsus’s instruction to the Colossians in 4:2; “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving.”  But there has often been something missing.  While of particular value, I’m referring to much more than dinner-table or bed-time prayer.

In the history of the church, there was a group who became known as the desert fathers. One of the traditions they developed was a revitalized Jewish practice; a specific time of day in which practitioners would devote themselves to spiritual communion with God in prayer.  Out of this practice developed many different types of prayer and spiritual exercises focused on drawing nearer to the Almighty through prayer, meditation, & reading. (I’d encourage you to click the link on desert fathers and learn more about them!)

About 500-600 years before Christ, Daniel the Hebrew’s practice is documented; “Although Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he continued to go to his house, which had windows in its upper room open toward Jerusalem, and to get down on his knees three times a day to pray to his God and praise him, just as he had done previously.”  He continued in other situations with this prayer ritual – “Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.”  He was a Hebrew taken into exile with others from the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar.  These historical events are well documented outside the Bible.

Back to the point:  I’m very interested in hearing from anyone who has developed a personal practice of the divine hours, or “the divine office” or whatever you call your fixed time(s) of prayer each day. This is an ancient practice, and I’d be interested in knowing the value of it that you have experienced.  Have you set alarms on your phone to do this?  Ever how private it must be, do you stop anything you’re doing to devote yourself to that communion with God?

prayer timeIt’s really about holiness.  I try my best to be holy at all hours of the day, whether public or private alone time.  We live in a time where UNHOLINESS, wickedness, and hedonistic idolatry is the god of most of the world, regardless of whether or not they visit a church like a drive-through every week.  It’s a challenge to be what we need to be, and to continue to stand out.  My prayer for myself and my family is that we would be like Daniel;  Now this Daniel was distinguishing himself above the other supervisors and the satraps, for he had an extraordinary spirit. In fact, the king intended to appoint him over the entire kingdom.”

Have you developed a practice of this in your life?  In light of recent political and social developments in our country, how has this affected your divine hours time?  We who are disciples of Jesus should make time, and make it a priority to put in the solitude time.  Thanks in advance for your thoughtful comments.

Abuse of the Supper in the Corinthian church

In a number of places I’ve been growing up, I heard a particular explanation of 1 Cor. 11:17-34.  That explanation was that the instruction Paul gave was a condemnation of the church’s “making a common meal out of the Lord’s Supper.” 

With great respect to the good men who’ve stated it, I believe this is a shallow explanation of the passage, and that verses 17-22 provide the appropriate context.  They show that “common meal” was not at all part of the censure Paul issued. 

The Corinthian church had a number of problems.  Many of them came from Pagan backgrounds; idol worship, ceremonial promiscuity (temple prostitution) and eating meat from sacrifices to those gods, just to name a few.  This was the culture of the people of Corinth.  However, as redeemed disciples of Christ, they are now called away from their former lifestyles and called to a life of self-oblation and dependence on God. 

Chapters 10 & 11 are interesting.  In chapter 10, the Apostle instructs them, “Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. ” – instructing them that they cannot have it both ways.  You can’t keep your life of Pagan self-indulgence and worship, and sit down at the table with Christ’s saints and eat the LORD’s supper. 

Just like the serious dichotomy in their attitudes and behavior in chapter 10, chapter 11 demonstrates a serious problem that has nothing to do with “making a common meal” of the Supper.  Consider the opening of the passage: 

17In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.

The passage continues with the oft-explained passage,

“Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not! “

The problem clearly is identified in those verses.  To be accurate, the passage has to mean something far more than our 21st Century Western World thinking.  “Don’t you have homes” couldn’t be accurately translated, “don’t eat in the church building.”  Nor could it mean, “don’t make a common meal of the Supper” – as the church had been in the habit of ritual meals since the Jewish feasts and ceremonies.  In fact, Jesus’ very institution of the Supper was in the context of a meal. 

The problem here is that status differences and class envy were penetrating the Lord’s church.  The everyday feelings and practices of these Christians was not fixed – and not only that – but specifically brought INTO the church.  Those with status, riches, wealth, and availability were abusing the freedoms and liberty of those who “had nothing.”  The Lord’s church was called to a higher purpose!  To be a  light in the darkness, to be a light to the nations, and to show Christ to the world.  The Corinthians were far from it.

Although slaves are not mentioned in chapter 11, the Greco-Roman world was full of slavery during the time of Paul’s writing.  If the slave in the Roman society (50-60% of their world) cannot come to the Lord’s table for equality and fellowship, to where can he go?  (Don’t think 19th century African slavery; think credit, debt, sponsorship, and mentorship.)  The Roman slave may not be a particularly poverty-stricken slave, but just a lower socio-economic class person.  Regardless of the status of the individuals; the “haves” were disregarding the equality of these Christians who were less-fortunate.  Whether slave or free, the church in Corinth wasn’t eating the LORD’s supper at all.  It was their own supper with inequality, status envy, and refused fellowship.

All of this makes the last few verses (often ignored) make sense.  If one doesn’t discern the body rightly, he will not care for his brothers or sisters.  The Lord’s church loves its own, and cares for one another in a way incomprehensible to the outside world.  Verse 30 alludes to those who are weak, sick, and have even died – because the body was not discerned rightly.  If the church there would care for one another, wait for one another, and eat the LORD’s supper, perhaps the fate would not be the same.

The conclusion is simple. 

11:33So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.   – Food isn’t the problem.  It’s mindset.  If one is coming to the assembly to eat and feast, he has the wrong motives. 

While the early church did in fact take part in an Agapao (Agape – Love Feast), Paul does not condemn, nor condone it here.  His silence leads us to believe it was a non-issue.  What was NOT a non-issue was the way the church of God was to treat one another, since “we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”  (1 Cor. 10:17) 

Salt and Light. Now, more than ever!

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More than ever, I realized tonight how amazingly important it is for God’s children to be salt and light in a world full of tasteless darkness.  “Come out and be separate, says the Lord” is resonating in my head loudly.

I’m at one of my work engagements, and having a blast.  My friends and colleages are fun people, and some of them are deeply God-fearing.  Others – not so much God-fearing in their everyday ethics and personal morality.  They are not evil people, they are simply demonstrating Satan’s impact on the world by their lack of Godliness.  I have no doubt they “fear” God, but they often don’t appear to let it translate into obedience, respect, and holiness.  I have come to believe that true disciples of Christ cannot possibly be brightening and seasoning the world without being within it.  To get to know people, and for them to get to know us, and know that we – without judgement upon them – choose to live a different life of holiness; separating ourselves from vulgar speaking, filthy thoughts, drunkenness, immorality.

Don’t get me wrong… I deeply struggle with holiness on a daily basis, and hope and pray that God’s rich mercy will cover my shortcomings.  I know that it will because the word repeatedly shows that Christ’s love is so deep for us; that his love was far greater than a simple trump card that was a one-time pass for us to be saved or not saved.  That his sacrifice was once for all time, so that we don’t repeatedly – year after year – have to offer sacrifices for ourselves, as the Hebrews did.  Isn’t that what grace is? 

Isn’t his grace sufficient for us?  Now and for always, Father – give me strength to be in and amongst my friends of the world, and show them Jesus.  To love them, to show holiness to them, and while far from perfection, help me to show them in my conscious and unconscious actions that Jesus is truly the master of my life.  And thank you for placing dear Christian brothers close to me to help encourage.

Paul vs James? A Brief Look at Faith, Works, and Justification

Below is an article by my good buddy and quartet-mate, Shane Scott, on the great question of faith/works and the relationship between then.  He does a great job demonstrating the contexts of both passages and exegeting the scripture, rather than reading into it his own meaning.  You can read more of Shane’s stuff at the link over on the side of the page. 

Oh, and don’t forget to vote SHANE SCOTT for PRESIDENT!!  See his campaign promo here:  http://youtube.com/watch?v=TN6kG4SwFRo

>>Shane’s Post:
In his 1522 Preface to the New Testament Martin Luther expressed his reservations about the book of James, which he described as an “epistle of straw.” He had questions about the identity of its author, but he was even more troubled by its seeming contradiction with the teaching of Paul on justification. At one point Luther offered to give his doctor’s beret to any man who could reconcile the teaching of Paul and James.

On the surface, it is easy to see why Luther was so perplexed. In Romans 3:29 Paul says, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” Yet in James 2:24 we read, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” We have basically two options: either Paul and James contradict each other, or they dare using the same terms to mean different things . And I believe this latter approach is correct.

In the first place, James and Paul are using “works” in two completely different ways. Paul is referring to works of the Law of Moses, especially circumcision, as the immediate context of Romans 3 makes clear. Romans 3 begins with this question: “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision?” (3:1). It ends the same way: “Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (3:29-30).

James, however, is not speaking of the works of the Law of Moses. Instead, he is referring to visible demonstration of genuine faith. If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:15-17). The only sense in which James is speaking of the works of the Law is in the broad sense of fulfilling the command to love your neighbor as yourself (James 2:8; cited form Lev. 19:18), a concept that Paul completely favors (Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14). Paul agrees with James that genuine faith must work in love (Gal. 5:6).

Second, James and Paul mean different things when they speak of “faith.” Paul is referring to the initial act of trust in Jesus to become a Christian (Rom. 3:25). When James speaks about faith, he is referring to the phony claim of faith made by professed Christians. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (James 2:14). James is decrying the empty assertion of faith that has no connection to reality, something Paul would not tolerate either.

Finally, James and Paul are using “justification” in two different senses. When Paul speaks of justification in Rom. 3:29, Paul is referring to declaration by God that we are in right standing. And he is consistent in teaching that our right standing is through faith in Christ rather than the works of the Law of Moses. There is another meaning of justification, though. Sometimes it means vindication. This is how Jesus used the term in Matthew 11:19: “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” Wisdom is justified, borne out, vindicated, by its results. And so also is faith. James uses two examples of justification in this sense: Abraham and Rahab. In both instances, Abraham and Rahab had a belief in God that was later vindicated as genuine by their actions; Abraham in offering Isaac, and Rahab in protecting the spies of the God of Israel. Our works vindicate the genuine character of our faith, which Paul teaches as well (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:17).

I believe Luther allowed the nature of the debates of his day (perfectionism and ritualism) to define what the texts of Paul and James meant in their day, rather than reading Paul and James in light of the debates of their day. But properly understood, James and Paul are in agreement on the relationship of faith, works, and justification.

Bone Marrow for Ethan – YOU CAN HELP!!!

Hey – if you’re reading this, you may already know that our nephew (ok, really 2nd cousin) is nearly 5 months old, and has been in St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis with Leukemia since his 2 month-old birthday.  He was not expected to make it through the first 72 hours or so, and has made it thus far, due to the fantastic Doctors, technology, and the all things that God has blessed.  He is in control, and He has already blessed the situation with amazing bountiful blessings.  Please see his website at http://www.ethanpowell.com

The need for Bone Marrow Donors is the greatest thing one can do to help right now, besides prayer.  If you will, PLEASE go to the website above and download the letter to OPRAH.  We are asking that you download it, print it, sign it, and mail it to the address listed there on the update page on Ethan’s website.  Thank you, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, for praying for Ethan.  Please continue so that our Father will never doubt the faith of his children that God can heal this child.  Not only can he heal this boy, but he will!  Let’s do our part, knowing that God will do HIS, and leave that in His hands.  The fervent prayer in faith will do great things.  If you want to help sponsor a Bone Marrow Drive, go to the website and learn how.  It’s not as hard as you think. 

As Ben so habitually signs off on the updates page, PRAYER WORKS!  Please pray, but also – please PRINT out the letter and mail it.  This is not a joke, and if there are enough bone marrow donors, the numbers will work in Ethan’s favor.  But again, we don’t simply believe in statistics… God is the Master of Heaven and Earth, and the power which raised Jesus can heal this little boy.  Thank you, friends!

Elizabeth is Stoned…

This is no time for humor, actually.  I have such bad taste…  Seriously, please pray for Elizabeth right now.  She is in the hospital with a kidney stone and WAS in excruciating pain.  The pain is subsiding – gradually – thanks to modern meds, but they are keeping her in St. Thomas Hospital here in Nashville probably a 2nd night, tonight.  The main issues are her nausea and the concern about dehydration, and the pain is being dealt with by the professionals.  I took her in to the E.R. last night about 9:oo, and after a CT Scan and 4 or 5 doses of pain and nausea meds, she continued to have great pain and nausea, so they admitted her at about 3:15 a.m. 

We are in pretty good shape with our contingency plan, (my parents watching kids, etc.) and our trip to Louisiana/Texas was put off today, of course.  But other than that, several good sisters have jumped in and helped out.  God is good; let’s just pray for her to quickly pass the kidney stone.  I’ve never seen her in this much pain.